My attention was brought to a recent article by a colleague, the article laid out an excellent explanation of the RATER Model. Another tool that can be applied to many sectors, but is quite satisfactory for use in Health Practice Management to assess exactly where your Practice is. The RATER Model was created by professors Valarie Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, and Leonard Berry, and published in their 1990 book, “Delivering Quality Service.” The book itself is an excellent read for any Practice owner who really wants assistance in positioning their Practice for Patient Retention.
The model highlights five areas that customers/Patients generally consider to be important when they use a service. These are:
- Reliability – your ability to provide the service you have promised consistently, accurately, and on time.
- Assurance – the knowledge, skills, and credibility of staff; and their ability to use this expertise to inspire trust and confidence.
- Tangibles – the physical evidence of the service you provide. This could be offices, equipment, employees, and the communication and marketing materials that you use including any online channels.
- Empathy – the relationship between employees and customers.
- Responsiveness – your ability to provide a quick, high quality service to your customers.
By focusing on these five areas, you can analyze and improve your service levels across your Practice.
So, how will you apply the RATER Model in your Practice? The best way to apply the Model is by carrying out a Gap Analysis using each of the five dimensions in your Practice. Again, honest analysis is imperative, you can then come up with a plan for improving the way that you serve your customers.
To do a Gap Analysis, you identify the following in each of the five areas:
- Future state – the “place” you want to be to provide exceptional service.
- Current situation – how you currently provide your service.
- Next Actions – how you’ll move from your current situation to your future state.
You can use the following questions as a starting point for thinking about each area:
- How well do you provide the service that you’ve promised to your Patients, efficacy of instruments, follow ups, repairs?
- Are your systems and processes clearly identified, written, robust and reliable?
- Is service delivery consistent and timely, across all service channels (including any online channels), sale to fit times, aftercare times, response to a service request?
- Could you improve the quality of your service in any other way?
- Do your Staff have the skills and knowledge needed to deliver a good service, across all channels?
- Do your Staff need any further training or development?
- Do your Staff inspire trust in Patients?
- Is your service clinically compliant, does your service engender ongoing feelings of security in your Patients?
- Is the evidence of your service (products, packaging, marketing materials, website, offices, Staff appearance, and so on) attractive and appropriate for your customers, back to decor and presentation here?
- Are your website FAQs useful, comprehensive, and up to date? And can people talk to a human being through other channels if their questions haven’t been answered, or if your website is down?
- As well as managing traditional channels and your website, are you properly handling queries and feedback through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other online services that you use?
- Does your Practice respond quickly to phone queries or requests for support from Patients?
- Does the physical or virtual evidence fit with your organization’s desired brand?
- Do your Staff build good relationships with customers?
- Do you build good relationships with your Patients
- Is all communication with Patients clear and timely?
- Do Staff show empathy with Patients? Do they understand why empathy is essential for providing a great service?
- Do your Staff genuinely care about Patient needs, do you?
- Are Staff able to see things from a Patient’s point-of-view?
- Do you provide a prompt service, which is easy to access?
- Do you manage complaints and feedback appropriately, response times and format?
- Are Staff always willing and able to help Patients, able is the key?
- Do you resolve Patient issues and problems satisfactorily, and in good time, across all service channels?
When you identify your future state and your current situation, lay out a clear strategy to get from your current situation to your proposed future state. Involve your Staff in the strategy planning and consistently talk to your Patients to assess the changes and feedback on any perception of improved services. You can also Benchmarking to compare your performance with similar organizations or services. The RATER Model, once applied honestly to a Practice, is an excellent tool to asses where you are versus where you want to be. It allows you the data that you need to make clear strategic decisions.